Sports fans are finding a new way to cash in on the game they love as sports card investments skyrocket

For many Americans, buying a pack of sports cards was a childhood staple. For many older millennials, the 1989 Upper Deck, Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card was the rave growing up, but very few people managed to get their hands on one.

Collecting sports cards has been a popular hobby for many Americans for decades. Still, there has been a massive increase in interest recently, and sports cards are quickly becoming something more than just a hobby. A 1952 Topps Mickey Rookie Card recently set the record for the most expensive sports ticket sale at $12.6 million. This sale sort of heralded that sports cards are here to stay, not just as a hobby.

According to Geoff Wilson, founder of Sports Card Investor, “Sports cards are quickly becoming a legitimate alternative asset class in their own right. The next generation of investors in the US want to invest in things that matter to them or that they have a personal connection with”; that’s why you’ve seen the rise of social entrepreneurship. I think that same sentiment is driving the current boom at Collecting sports cards drives.”

Geoff Wilson is a lifelong sports card collector, a tech investor and the founder of Sports Card Investor. This data-driven company provides sports card data so fans can track the value of their cards and make profitable decisions.

Why are sports card investments becoming more popular?

In early 2019 there was a significant increase in interest in investing in sports cards, mainly due to the positive changes that card manufacturers were beginning at the time. However, few people were prepared for the remarkable changes in the industry that the pandemic would bring.

Shortly thereafter, the pandemic broke out and everything was shut down. After all sporting activities were cancelled, the sports card industry hit a brief trough and reversed all of the significant momentum that had built up over the previous six months. The average card lost 30-40% in value in two weeks.

In the last 2 years the market has seen a resurgence with a Mike Trout rookie card selling for $3.9 million in 2020 and a $6.6 million Honus Wagner card a year later million dollars.

“We have something the hobby never had before,” Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Suddenly we’re cool.”

Wilson added: “Everything changed after about three weeks, and suddenly sports cards became popular at a rate that has never been seen before and that we may never see again, bored home and looking for a hobby.” For many Americans, sports cards were the perfect thing because they reconnected with their childhood. The second was ESPN’s release of the documentary “The Last Dance,” which followed the life of Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls, and their championships in the 1990s.”

After the documentary was released, most sports ticket investors reported crazy increases in ticket prices, from Michael Jordan’s tickets to every basketball ticket. Eventually, the craze spread to other sports; Football cards, baseball cards, soccer cards and hockey cards. The surge in activity continued through 2020 and parts of 2021, but prices cooled somewhat after the country opened up as people started spending on other things. However, Mr Wilson insists interest has remained at an all-time high.

“Interest and commitment to our content on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube have continued to grow post-pandemic. This is proof that this is no longer a short-term increase, but the norm, but measurable growth is interesting, and it’s happening much faster than we expected.”

In 2003, Matthew Berger purchased a 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James Rookie Patch autograph card for $5,000. Today he is expected to sell the map through Heritage auctions for around $2 million.

Speaking to Sports Collectors Daily, Berger said, “I was like, ‘If Michael Jordan had a rookie card like this Exquisite, what would it be worth?'” Matthew recalled. “$500 for a box of Exquisite was the first of its kind. I thought the value was so enormous that one day [the LeBron RPA] will be worth $1 million.”

2016 someone from eBayEBAY
Bid $40,000 for the card. This year, the card has a $795,000 bid with a buyer’s premium. The history of the cards in this Lebron pack speaks volumes. In July 2020, a LeBron Exquisite numbered 14/23 with a BGS 9.5 Gold Label (one rating) sold for $1.8 million. In April 2021, a BGS 9 was sold for $5.2 million in a private sale brokered by PWCC.

Positive changes in sports card collecting game

Sports card collecting has changed a lot compared to 30 years ago. Many sports fans are now rediscovering it as more than just a hobby.

For investments to be credible, cards must have long-term value and the industry must be liquid. While this wasn’t the case before, fans are finding that it often is now with the positive changes introduced.

“Sports card manufacturers introduced a level of scarcity into their manufacturing that has really helped preserve the value of the cards,” Wilson explains to Karten, given the apparent scarcity that these measures bring. Professional athletes only sign a limited number of cards per year, and serial numbers indicate the number of cards produced in a series. Also, the industry has now become very liquid which has helped generate a lot of interest. With platforms like eBay and Check Out My Cards, investors can easily sell their cards and get paid for what was not possible when we were kids.”

In a world where fantasy football and daily fantasy sports take center stage, investing in sports cards is quickly becoming a superior form of betting on player performance. Ideally, investors can buy tickets from highly rated young players to bet on their careers. Cards can go down or up in value based on how well players perform during a season. The measurability of these indices has made Sports Card Investing a credible alternative asset class.

The other aspect is the Hall of Fame. When Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady announced that he was retiring, his rookie tickets rose in price significantly, with one selling on eBay for $2.3 million. Awaiting his induction into the hall and his current fame.

According to Collectors’ Professional Sports Authenticator Division employee Todd Tobias, prior to 2018 you could buy a 1961 Topps #139 Johnny Robinson card for $18. “Johnny Robinson was named a Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Candidate for the Class of 2019 on August 17, 2018,” Tobias wrote. “Another copy of PSA 8 was sold that day, this time for $100.”

Grading experts Mike Breedan and Steve Gold spoke about how many of the athletes inducted into the Halls of Fame today have a price increase in Sports Collectors Digest.

“Most of the players’ cards that are chosen today are mass-produced, so not only are they easy to find, but they’re also easy to find in top condition,” Gold said. Breeden added, “Mass-produced cards have never really had any (relative) value, and it’s likely they never will.”

They suggested that today’s players, who are likely to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at some point in the future, are good investments.

Data helps build momentum

Prior to 2020, the only data available to sports card investors to speculate on the value of cards was eBay sales history. However, the fact that eBay only displays data for the last 90 days made it difficult for investors to predict the long-term value of the cards and how the card would perform over time. In August 2020, eBay reported that its card market grew by 142%, selling more cards in the first six months of 2021 than in all of 2020.

As Forbes reported in March, Collectors’ Professional Sports Authenticator division certifies and rates thousands of cards worth $1.6 billion a day in one day in March. Collectors secured $100 million in new funding from current investors in January 2022, taking the valuation to $4.3 billion. A five-fold increase in purchase price from $850 million in February 2021.

Wilson said, “Ebay has long provided all the data we had and it helped collectors make informed decisions, but I didn’t think that would be enough to validate sports card investing as a long-term strategy. This is why I developed Market Movers. It was the first truly data-driven app, showing investors all relevant data on their cards. Our Sports Card Investor website also has a price guide which is a free lite version of the app. What we’ve done is create a resource that can show investors the value of cards and movement over time.”

As with any other form of investing, the growing availability of data is having a positive impact on the world of sports card investing. While data does not guarantee that investments are fail-safe, it does instill more confidence in investors.

Being a sports fan often means spending money to enjoy sports. There are very few ways for fans to profit from their hobby and investing in sports cards offers just that, but in a much more entertaining way. If sports card investing continues to attract attention and investment, it’s not hard to imagine them becoming a major asset class in the near future.

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